Credit Suisse boss Thiam must show turnaround plan on track

Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:22am EDT
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By Sinead Cruise, Simon Jessop and Joshua Franklin

LONDON/ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse (CSGN.S: Quote) investors want answers from CEO Tidjane Thiam about his turnaround plan in the wake of $1 billion of unexpected trading writedowns at the bank, which has lost more than a third of its value since he joined 10 months ago.

Thiam joined last July from Prudential (PRU.L: Quote), with investor hopes high that he could repeat the successful Asian expansion strategy he oversaw at the British insurer and that his modest banking experience would bring fresh perspective.

But the 53-year old is expected to receive a lukewarm reception at the bank's annual investor meeting in Zurich on Friday.

Confidence in his ability to revive the bank's fortunes was shaken when he said he only discovered the scale of the bank's risky credit trading positions days before its fourth-quarter results in February, when writedowns were taken.

That added to concerns about the bank's wider strategy. Major shareholders have backed it, but some smaller investors and analysts are worried about Credit Suisse's plans to expand in Asian wealth management just as Chinese growth is slowing.

Some fear Thiam's targets are too optimistic, including one to more than double pre-tax income from Asia Pacific in 2018.

"He is trying to achieve some tricky things and confidence in him is low. He needs to show a couple of good results to restore confidence, and we know the next quarter won't be great, they are already saying so," said Filippo Alloatti, senior analyst at Hermes Credit.

"A short period of time won't give him the results he is seeking. I think the thing Thiam needs right now is luck."   Continued...

CEO Tidjane Thiam of Swiss bank Credit Suisse addresses a media briefing in Zurich, Switzerland in this October 21, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files